Watching all the video in the world does not prepare you for the actual sight of Joey Gallo, a giant human being, walking by on his way to hit in batting practice, and it doesn’t prepare you for how much Alex Gonzalez’s pitches move on the way to the plate, where he leaves hitters flummoxed and cursing.
Even though the advent of streaming has brought the minor leagues to computers, nothing compares to actually sitting at a game, watching the action. Broadcast games and MiLB.tv are great, of course, but low-definition cameras and awkward angles hamper how much actual observation one can do. Of course, for minor leaguers not yet in Double-A ball, there’s no choice but to rely on YouTube videos, reports and descriptions, and the occasional MiLB.tv glimpse to view the potential future of the organization, as was the case for Gallo and Gonzalez until they arrived in Frisco on Sunday afternoon.
Gallo’s been called a “Three True Outcomes” player since nearly the moment he signed his professional contract, someone almost more likely to homer/strike out/walk than any other option. In his first nine Double-A plate appearances, he did just that. Though his first appearance of each game resulted in a non-TTO end (RBI groundout/double), the other seven held to that format, with Gallo collecting three strikeouts, two walks, and two homers in his first two games.
Two of the strikeouts were of the swinging variety, unsurprisingly, big reaching whiffs showing that swing, while the third could have most likely been his first walk, had the umpire been feeling less generous towards the pitcher. The homers were surprising pop-ups, balls that just kept rising and flying until they landed over the fence. The walks came in the second game, the last of the Midland series, after Gallo had already doubled and homered. That’s the result of reputed top-shelf power: opposing pitchers already don’t want to throw Gallo anything too close to the strike zone. Additionally, if they weren’t terrified just reading the scouting report, watching Gallo walk up to the plate is something unlike anything seen in Frisco this season. Every single bit of 6’5”, 230 lbs, Gallo doesn’t necessarily look hulking at the plate, just large. Large, intimidating, and ready to fire his impressive arms and send a baseball into outer space.
Gallo joked after his walk-off that something like that in his first Double-A game would be like Gonzalez “throwing a no-hitter,” something that Gonzalez almost did the next day. Though it would have been understandable for a pitcher drafted in 2013 to struggle slightly in his Double-A debut, Gonzalez took a perfect game into the fifth, where a controversial call gave Midland a double to start the inning. He then retired the next three hitters easily, showing the poise and confidence that’s led the organization to promote him quickly through the system.
In the 61 pitches Gonzalez threw, there were none that took a straight trajectory to the plate. Every one of his four pitch types has ridiculous movement on it, from the fastball that he can cut or run; the curveball that he manipulates with sharp break; the slider that looks like a fastball leaving his hand and can create awkward and mis-timed swings; or the change that might be his second-best pitch after the fastball. His motion is easy, the velocity is good, and the thought that he might be a major league threat in 2015 could certainly enter one’s mind.
It would be hard to ask for a more impressive debut from two such heralded prospects. Of course, the Double-A grind starts, and the next 70 or so games is where the results that really matter will pile up.